KILDARE MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: You are not defined by your work

Ask Dr Eddie Murphy

KILDARE MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: You are not defined by your work

Dr Eddie says, you might need to ask yourself what is the worst that could happen if you don't get a job done

This week I share and respond to a letter from a reader who is under a considerable amount of stress.

Dr Eddie,

I am particularly interested in the area of burnout, and learning more as to how one can recover from it, please?

I particularly identified with Paul from this year’s Operation Transformation, and the only thing that relieves my stress is being on top of work. As a result, I often bring work home, where, as as you say, spending time on recreation takes from the time I can work, and increases my stress.

As a result, my attitude, is to try and do the minimum recreation but enough to stay healthy!

An additional problem I have, is that I never learned any hobbies. The problem with this is that when I now go to do a hobby, I'm not skilled, so it adds to my stress.

For example, in learning to swim or learning to paint, I don't get any immediate satisfaction as I have not acquired the skills of art or swimming.

The only thing that was rewarded at home when I was growing up was work.

Maybe you could give me some tips in this area?


Enough Work : More Life

Dear Mary,

What an interesting email you sent me. When I read it I had a number of immediate thoughts and on reflecting further on it, more emerged!

For some people who work and only know work and are contented in life with work, then that’s OK.

It’s when work interferes with our personal, social and recreational life that it’s problematic. I truly believe the old adage that ‘All work and no play makes Jack/Jill a dull boy/girl’. In life we need a mixture of work rest and play.

I get a tinge of sadness from your email, and sense you are a person who is struggling to get some balance in their lives; a person who sees that they want more to life than work.

You come across as a person who wants to move away from the fact that the only thing that was rewarded at your home was work.

The risk is that you are potentially recreating and walking down that well-worn pathway through habit, and potentially fear or self–judgement.

Control V Fear

Burnout is that overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. Now that you are in questioning mode, I encourage you to challenge your work ethic.

I believe that all this work gives you a sense of being in “control”, and if you are not in control then your fear rises.

It’s time to question what are you afraid of.

Is it of not getting the job done?

Is it a childhood echo that you are scared of not getting praise

Are you afraid of becoming fearful/anxious

It is time to ask yourself some very powerful questions: “What is the worst thing that could happen if I don’t get that job done?”; “What would I say to my best friend if they told me that I didn’t get jobs done?”; “What repercussions am I concerned about?”

At this point you will need to experiment and leave some jobs not done for a day or more.

Start small with the dishes, the floor, etc. Live with the fear and it will soon subside.

You are seeking to be flexible about getting stuff done and knowing the difference between important and non-important stuff. Use self-compassion to manage stress and rising fear.

Pleasure, Meaning and Engagement

In positive psychology when we look at people who have good wellbeing we look at those whose lives have pleasure, meaning and engagement.

Pleasure is fun and uplifting. If I offered you a 99 cone now and you enjoyed it, and I give you a second one, you more than likely will not like the second one as much as pleasure lasts just a short time.

Meaning and engagement is long lasting. When I read of you talking about swimming and art, I hear self-judgment screaming out as you believe you have to be good at something immediately.

Sometimes in life, it’s the journey that is important — not just the arrival. I believe those that have passions in their lives are lucky – these passions can be music, family, sport, dance, fashion, etc.

For many others, I say they are on a journey to find their passions. The thing to do is to sample a menu of activities or hobbies regularly and I believe there is something there for everyone.

One of the best ways to get a life of meaning and engagement is through volunteering. Volunteer Ireland seeks to connect people and communities through volunteering — check out Believe me you will get out of yourself and find opportunities meaning in your life.

Remember you are not defined by your work. You are not your work. You are made of much more, you are worth so much more.

Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychological and counselling service in Portarlington, Co Laois. If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or go to dr.eddie.murphy.psychologist

More News

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.